Sunday, October 24, 2010

Road Rules - Homecoming Edition

Since I graduated from college in 2001, I have made it a point to return to Baltimore at least 2 times a year; homecoming and graduation. In the last nine years, I've only missed 1 graduation and have yet to miss a homecoming. As this years homecoming came around, for a brief moment, I didn't think I was going to be able to go (blame it on the economy and bad budgeting). Fortunately, things opened up that allowed me to go, even though I did have to make some concessions (take the bus instead of the train and stay 2 nights instead of 3).

Going into the trip I wasn't as motivated as I usually am. Before I even left work, I knew I wasn't going to see the person I wanted to see the most. On top of that, I received the unfortunate news of the passing of the mother of a friend of mine due to a massive stroke (insert "life is short, live each day like its your last" reminder here). I accepted those realities and didn't let them put too much of a damper on my day/weekend. By the time I arrived at the bus station, I ran into a friend of mine and the fun began. We laughed and reminisced most of the trip, which brought my excitement level back up a little bit.

Once we arrived into town, I quickly checked into my hotel room and prepared to hit the streets. Unfortunately, my body had other plans. After eating dinner, my body all but shut down. No energy to do anything. After watching the Rangers beat the Yankees I dozed off, only to be awaken around 2 when all of the parties ended and everyone wanted to know what happened to me.

Saturday started early. Breakfast, followed by a phone call from one of my nearest and dearest friends who couldn't make it to Baltimore. After that, I met up with another friend and headed to campus. Yes, we won the football game, but this day was more about the memories and the friendships. Running into old friends and making new ones always makes the trip worth it. Reminiscing about old days and making new memories were great. After leaving campus, it was off to dinner at Red Brick Station in White Marsh (if you ever go, don't order Jake's Nacho's with chicken unless you plan on sharing with at least 2 other people . . . yes, its that big) and more alumni parties before resting up for the trip home.

The trip home was bittersweet. The whole time I wonder what life would be like had I never left after graduation and how things could be if I move back; a decision I've been thinking about for years. Would some things change for the better? Would some things change for the worse. I know thinking back won't change things, but who knows what the future home. Being a Maryland resident doesn't sound like such a bad idea to me.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Music Makes Me High - The "Music Saved My Life Tour"

Anyone who knows me knows there are four things that I really get excited about; good music, good food, sports and women. Last night, the music lover in me was in a very good place. Mary J. Blige' brought her "Music Saved My Life" tour to Radio City Music Hall here in New York City. It was her second of two shows in New York (although the tickets for this one went on sale first - I hate when that happens) and she brought Miguel, Jazmine Sullivan, and El DeBarge . . . yes, EL DEBARGE, to open for her.

I saw Miguel perform over the summer when he opened for Chrisette Michelle. I like his music and hope he continues to get the exposure that he deserves. His set was only 15 minutes long. Just enough for him to be introduced to those who didn't know him. If you haven't listened to anything other this "All I Want Is You" then look him up. If he stays true to himself, he will probably not get a lot of radio airplay like the Dweele's, Eric Roberson's and other artists who's music has been classified as neo-soul.

Jazmine Sullivan took the stage next. I didn't get how her intro related to her first song, but once she started singing "Bust Ya Windows" it didn't even matter. She went into her other hits, mixed in with some songs with some songs with her new album. The woman can sing . . . or should I say, she can sang. What surprised and impressed me was the fact that she has personality and good stage presence. She has definitely improved in that area since I last saw her. Besides the near wardrobe malfunction (or maybe I was just hoping for one), he set was good.

After Jazmine left that stage, I updated my Facebook status to say "[Organized Noise] is enjoyed the young cats but is ready for the veterans to hit the stage". Hit the stage they did. El DeBarge came on and put on a performance clinic. With no backup dancers and no fancy pyro, DeBarge came on stage like a "grown man". A man with a microphone, a piano and a live band is all he needed to command the stage as he took us on a musical journey that went as far back as an Earth, Wind & Fire cover and as recent as his new single, "Second Chance". By the time he finished his set with "Rhythm Of The Night" he could have pulled a Randy Watson and just drop the mic and walk off the stage. . . fortunately he didn't. He got the crowd warmed up just enough that the meer mention of Mary's name would have been enough to set the stage of fire.

Mary J. Blige took the stage and appropriately started her set with "MJB Da MVB". After that, she spent the rest of her set showing us why. showing us why that title is befitting the Queen that she is. Going through hit after hit, album after album after album taking us on a journey through her life, which most of us have seen played out since day one. She has so many hits that you could make a decent album with the songs that time did not permit her to perform (most notable to me was "Family Affair"). I don't know what can be said about Mary that hasn't already been said. If you've seen her already, you already know. If you haven't, what are you waiting for? Mary was the icing on the cake this night, and sometimes, the icing is the best part.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Gone, But Not Forgotten

On Friday, October 2, 2009 will be a day I won't forget for many reasons. Unfortunately, the most notable of those reasons is a sad one. That afternoon, a young freshman at Campus Magnet High School in St. Albans, New York (Andrew Jackson High School for those of you who lived in Queens prior to the mid 1990's) was walking home and decided to stop at the McDonald's by the school on his way home. While he was approaching the store, a fight broke out at a car wash across the street. At some point during the fight, someone pulled out a gun and started shooting. As everyone ran for cover, this young freshman was hit by a stray bullet and was pronounced dead later that evening.

As irony would have it, I was in Sparrowbush, New York that day. It was day one of a 3 day retreat with other men from my church. We were just about to go into a workshop about being more effective in the community and keeping our kids off of the street when the phone calls started pouring in. Since I was scheduled to facilitate that particular workshop, I had to make the announcement. I didn't know the young man personally, but him mother is someone I grew up with so it did hit pretty close to home.

The death and week that followed drew a lot of media attention, especially since the young man went to the same school as Ed Lover & Kurt Flirt, who used their local radio show to keep the spotlight on the investigation and make sure that the death didn't become just another statistic. The wake and funeral packed the church as dignataries, church members and fellow classmates (classes were cancelled and students were bused to the funeral), transit workers, police officers and people just wanting to be there for support. Tears were flowing, but after the funeral the memory didn't die.

Fast forward to October 1, 2010. The beginning of the weekend acknowlegding the 1 year anniversary of this unfortunate crime. A candlelight vigial was held in his honor and a permanent plaque was placed in front of the car wash where he died. It was a bittersweet night (those of you who are friends with me on Facebook can see the pictures I posted this weekend). There was laughter, there was singing, there was inspiration and there were definitely tears. Contrary to popular belief, time does not heal all wounds. There is still a mother who lost her oldest child, a young man who lost his big brother, and another teenager who lost a cousing who was more like a brother to him. Not to mention friends and classmates who had to learn about death a whole lot earlier than they should have.

This post isn't so much a tribute as it is another reminder that life is short. I once heard someone say that we don't control the dates on our tombstone, but we do control what happens in the dash. In other words, we don't control when we are born or when we die, but we do control what we make of the time in between. Every time I hear a story like this, I am always inspired to live my life and that's exactly what I intend to continue to do. I don't know how much more time I have left, but I'm going to try my best to do as much as I can for as long as I am allowed to do so. What about you?